Sunday, 10 November 2013

Same-sex marriage 'only serves assimilationists' is piffle

We've had an enormous amount of discussion of marriage in LGBT+ activism circles over the last couple of years. One of the semi-legitimate complaints is that the focus on this has passed over other issues affecting LGBT people (why I'm not persuaded of that is a tangent for another post). Another I've run into many times is that this change only serves the 'assimilationist gays'.

I'm not persuaded, and here's why.  My quick and dirty chart above considers the division of marriage up until legislative reform.  On the left of the black line, people who if they are to marry one person pick someone the law considers to be of the opposite sex; on the right, those who choose someone deemed of the same sex. (The law, at least in the countries I have lived in, remains a stickler for this binary thing).

But not everyone wants to marry. For whatever individual reason, all the people below the red line don't want to marry.

But we live in a culture of homophobia, and so people in the bottom left are pressured into marrying or else coming on the receiving end of homophobia through guilt-by-association: still not married, at your age? There must be something wrong and we all know what people who don't marry have wrong with them. Cue a variety of social ostracisation and for some financial penalties too.  Some will be assumed to be gay, others will marry for social acceptance.

Meanwhile on the right of the black line, at the top there are people who want to marry but are denied it, and at the bottom, people who don't want to marry (and may come to imagine a correlation between their distaste for marriage and their sexual preferences).

Now we redefine marriage as for any couple who want to marry.

This means the dividing line in marriage is not by sexual orientation but by choice.  No longer the black line but the red.

Those in the top right box are given the freedom over their own lives to choose to marry if they (and their prospective spouse) so wish.

Those in the bottom left box have the "it must be because you are secretly gay" assumption lifted. You could marry if you wanted; if you're not marrying it is because you choose not to, or the right person said no, or suchlike.

So I don't see same-sex marriage laws as 'just' liberation politics, and I don't see it as just for LGBT. It allows both those who wish to marry and those who do not to do the thing that feels right for them, without giving either the bully power to force their personal choice onto others.

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